Many of us were raised with the idea that looking out for others and helping those in need was just part of what we did. If someone was sick or worse, it was mere moments before ovens were turned on to make dinners and treats to deliver, farmers stopped planting or harvesting their own fields and headed over to finish the family in need’s crop first,  lawns were mowed, children were taken in until parents could catch their breath.

As many of us move away from the areas we were raised, it’s sometimes challenging to make that connection in our new neighborhoods.  How do we instill the idea in our children of helping our neighbors if we don’t know our neighbors?

Here’s the cool thing about helping others – not only does it raise our children with the mindset that they should  share what they have and look out for others, it’s a great “teaching moment” about how they should be thankful and grateful for what they do have. 

A simple conversation with your children and a small amount of time can make a difference for another family or child. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

As the season becomes cooler for most of us, it’s time for the annual shopping adventure to find warm coats, gloves and mittens, snow pants, boots. In some areas, the list is long! And many of those items that are now too small are still in good condition, minus a few knee patches or so.  Does your church, school, or a local business do a winter clothes drive? Have your children help bundle up the items and talk about how they will help another child be ready to head to school and play in the snow happily because they’re warm and dry. Maybe hide a small toy in the coat pocket for an extra surprise.

A favorite of mine is how we celebrate half-birthdays. In the spirit of the day, we celebrate with a cake that’s cut in half and stacked, complete with frosting and sprinkles. Instead of getting gifts, we give them. We collect the toys that we no longer play with or have outgrown and deliver them to a local non-profit that provides low-cost apartments for families transitioning from being homeless.  The toys can be used in their daycare or can be distributed to the children living there. Sometimes it’s hard to part with old favorites, so we focus on the items that need someone to play with them more…similar to the toys in Toy Story. You can also donate certain toys to an animal shelter to help animals in transition.

With the holidays getting closer, many shelters and churches know of families that could use extra food, gift cards, or gifts. Your family could “adopt” a family and together make a package of goodies to have delivered to them.

The gesture can be small for the effect to be big.

November 12, 2019 — Diane Janowak

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